Ather Energy, an Indian electric vehicle company on Wednesday said that it should be ready by mid September to start swapping the Vodafone SIM card fitted on the Ather 450 with BSNL SIM card. The company behind the Ather 450 and the Ather 450X electric scooters had equipped several Ather 450s with Vodafone SIM card. The electric vehicles use data connectivity for multiple elements inside a vehicle including onboard navigation and Over-the-Air (OTA) updates. The Ather 450 supported 3G connectivity with Ather Energy initially opting for Vodafone SIM cards on its vehicles before switching to BSNL SIM card.
Ather to Swap Vodafone Sim Card on Ather 450 with BSNL SIM Card
The company on Friday, August 14, 2020, said that Vodafone India had issued a “official communication” that the 3G services in Chennai and Bengaluru will be shut down on August 27, 2020. Ather Energy said that the development would result in Ather 450s equipped with Vodafone SIM card to switch to 2G networks.
“Vodafone was supposed to sunset 3G coverage much later, but this has taken us by surprise,” Ather Energy said on Friday.
Further, Ather Energy said that it is working on a 4G module that can be fitted on the Ather 450 electric scooters. The company said that the upgrade will take four to five months for the development, testing and commissioning on the existing Ather 450 vehicles.
“In this transition phase, the only option is to fallback to 2G networks, due to which some smart features might not be seamless,” Ather Energy said.
However, the company on Wednesday said that its engineering teams had worked out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for swapping SIM cards from Vodafone to BSNL.
“Initially our teams were concerned about swapping SIM cards since it needs special test equipment to validate the sealing of the dashboards (we don’t open the dashboards to the PCB level in general service),” Ather Energy said on Wednesday. “Doing this would have meant a very long process of sending dashboards back to our supplier’s facilities and hours of labor and logistics cost.”
The company said that it needs around four weeks to “setup an efficient process” for the work-around identified by its engineering teams.
Crucially, Ather Energy said that the SIM card swap from Vodafone to BSNL will be done for free of cost to its Ather 450 users. The company said that its Ather 450 users can drop off their vehicles beginning mid September at the service centre for the SIM card swap. However, Ather Energy said that the SIM card change would also be done on the next scheduled service appointment, if the users do not drop off their vehicles exclusively for the SIM card swap.
It has to be noted that BSNL continues to operate 3G services across the country as the operator does not have 4G spectrum.
Additionally, Ather Energy on Wednesday said that the development of its 4G module is on a “fast track mode.” The company said that the 4G module will be in the form of a dongle and that the company needs four months for deployment due to the automotive testing requirements.
Ather 450 Users to Experience Connectivity Issues Prior to SIM Swap
Ather Energy on Friday said that multiple elements on its Ather 450 electric scooters will be slow due to the switch to 2G networks including onboard navigation. The company said that onboard navigation requires good connectivity speeds and thus would be impacted during the switch to 2G networks.
“Loading of the Maps screen, along with search-based functions would be slower," Ather Energy said on Friday. "However, pushing location from your Ather App will work as expected. We’ve recently rolled out the ability to share a location to the App, from any other app on your phone, which should make the experience better.”
However, the company said that the data sync and ride statistics will work “as expected” during the switch to 2G networks.
“You’ll continue to see real time charging status, get ride statistics after every ride, and remotely track the location of your scooter,” Ather Energy said.
The company highlighted that the OTA upgrades will take longer to download on the 2G networks but that the users can reach out to the customer service team to install the updates manually.
“If the last 4 digits of your vehicle identification number (VIN) is less than or equal to 4182, your vehicle has been equipped with a Vodafone SIM and if that’s greater than or equal to 4183, your vehicle has been equipped with a BSNL SIM,” Ather Energy said.
The company on Wednesday said that it rolled out an OTA update for the Ather 450 vehicles that optimizes the “connected experience at slower network speeds.” Further, Ather Energy said that the cost of Ather Connect services will be reduced by 50% “for all affected users, until the 4G dongle is ready.” The 4G dongle upon release is said to carry a price tag of Rs 2500 plus GST.